Immortality, Struldbrugs and the ad infinitum

by Guest Blogger,
Tyler Kokjohn, Ph.D.

FleasHumankind may have forever dreamed of immortality.  Jonathan Swift ridiculed that undying wish in his masterwork Gulliver’s Travels by bringing struldbrugs to literary life.  Immortal, but still subject to the aging process, these unfortunates were condemned to suffer eternally all the negative physical, mental and emotional ravages afflicting the elderly.

Since Swift’s time, while still far from immortal, scientific and medical advances have improved the average person’s prospects greatly.  The typical baby born in 1900 had a mean life expectancy of 50 years and over the past century this has been extended to well over 80 years in some parts of the world today (1).  Improved living standards, effective control of infectious diseases and better diets have yielded a momentous demographic change; populations are older than ever.  Correlated with this change, chronic and degenerative diseases are increasing in…

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